I have been a fan of the Detroit Tigers since the Summer of 1984. That means I am lucky enough to vividly remember my baseball team winning a World Series title, and waiting for them to win another. Since every year the team itself asks me who my Tiger is I decided to write about my favorite 25 Tigers since I became a fan…at eight years old…This has less to do with performance as it does with whatever intangible qualities Tigers’ players have…I mean this is the town that loved Brandon Inge and Don Kelly…and no neither one of those players will make my list…With all of that being said…
#11 Catcher Ivan “Pudge” Rodriguez
Pudge will always be a devisive figure among Tigers fans. While it is true he was an All Star in every full season he played in Detroit…he wore the Ole English D for less than five years. ON top of all that he is more well known in baseball circles for his work with the Texas Rangers and leading the Florida Marlins to a World Series title. However it was the signing of Pudge that signaled a change in eras for the Tigers…
He should probably be higher on this list however I can never forgive him for running Manager Alan Trammell out of town. For me that is the fork in the road of current Tigers history. Had Trammell stayed and been allowed to cultivate the talent the Tigers already had…something he and his coaching staff have been thanked for by many of the young players of the time…the team might look very different today. However we cannot rewrite history…and the Tigers coming out of the 2003 season needed to make a big move…something to inspire the fans…a big swing was needed.
That move ended up being Ivan Rodriguez fresh off a World Series title run with Jim Leyland and the Florida Marlins. Dave Dombrowksi needed to prove that he could attract big name free agents to Detroit…he need to engage the Tigers fan base…and very likely felt the pressure to find some kind of success. 2003 was a disastrous season for the team and this was a roster nearly devoid of MLB ready talent.
We can argue that the Tigers overpaid for Pudge (he made over 35 million dollars in just under 5 seasons) but it was a good overpay. Remember this was a team that had been rejected (thankfully) by Juan Gonzales, had just lost 119 games, and had big questions at almost every position. Signing Pudge gave them a veteran catcher who could help the relatively inexperienced pitching staff. He wasn’t even the first free agency move of that off season but it did turn out to be one of the better ones.
Pudge’s best year in Detroit was most likely his first where he hit .334 with 19 home runs and 84 RBI. He won a Gold Glove and a Silver Slugger that year. He was selected to the All Star game four of the five season he played in Detroit and without a doubt his biggest contribution to the team was showing that big time free agents would come to Detroit, and that would become very important given how Dave Dombrowksi likes to construct his rosters.
Even though we can argue that maybe he deserves to be higher the simple fact here is Pudge was a hired gun and those kind of guys never truly capture the hearts of the fans, certainly not this fan. Add to that the belief he was behind the ouster of Tiger legend Alan Trammell and I think we find that eleven is a pretty good spot for him.